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Archive for the ‘Society’ Category

Recently while on assignment in Berlin your KC correspondent tip-toed in his father’s footsteps at Olympia-Stadion, the site of Hitler’s Olympic Games in 1936, which also took place in the first fortnight of August.

John O’Hara was one of three top wrestlers (freestyle) in the thirty-three member Australian team. Their medal hopes were high: light-heavyweight Eddie Scarf had won bronze in 1932 at Los Angeles and lightweight Dick Garrard would go on to win a silver medal in 1948 in London.

Cruelly their chances were spoiled by different European judging rules, resulting in disputed decisions, threats of boycott by other non-European teams and official protests. Nevertheless adverse decisions held and none of the Aussies progressed to the finals. My father’s loss in his third match, to the eventual silver medal winner in the welterweight division, was however considered a fair result.

Since 1936 the Olympic stadium has been substantially upgraded and de-Nazified with removal of offending symbols, but it retains the original stone construction – and is now home to Berlin soccer club Hertha BSC. Standing in his special box we try to imagine the atmosphere of 110,000 spectators saluting Hitler. The Australian team did not give the Nazi salute and were booed by some of that crowd.

The wrestling and boxing were held in the Deutschland Hall, a kilometre or so away. Unfortunately the building was demolished and is now the sight of a fun fair, so no chance of a pilgrimage to the venue of the wrestling contests.

The Australians were billeted in the Olympic village 14 kilometres away. It reverted to the Wehrmacht (German army) after the Games, and then to the Russians after WWII. Their troops left in 1992 and the village was then abandoned and fell into disrepair. I didn’t try to visit it but discovered this Berlin insider website with its story and a news item.

To celebrate our Olympic pilgrimage the KC team did however swim our laps in the rundown original pool, which remains unchanged, with its diving tower and green tiles. Australia did not send swimmers in 1936, as money was tight!

Recommended reading: Dangerous Games: Australia at the 1936 Nazi Olympics” by Larry Writer.

Photo hints: JOH is playfully fitted with the Olympic steward uniform cap in the press cutting – spot him in other photos. In the shot of eight casual training mates, Garrard is 2L and Scarf 4R.

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Nicely alliterative headline, but news from La Belle France is disturbing. French Mayors with local beaches have decided to ban the wearing of this cover-up swimsuit for Muslim women, as they consider it a ‘provocation’ against French secular values, or some such. The Conseil d’Etat, a kind of supreme court, has ruled that those bans are suspended, and the polemic continues.

Alas, everyone has missed a critical mistake! But firstly a little history of the burkini, which was invented by Aheda Zanetti, an Australian designer, after the 2007 Cronulla riots in Sydney. She proposed the swimsuit in lifesaving colours for Muslim women to join local surf clubs, and hence improve community relations.

Zanetti’s company owns trademarks to the words burkini and burqini, but they have become generic terms for swimwear acceptable to Islamic traditions, by covering most of the body, except for the face, hands and feet.

Secondly, there are different forms of Islamic dress for women: total body coverage with a burka, a niqab shows the eyes, and face uncovered with a hijab.

So, the overlooked problem stems from the misuse of the word burqa in the creation of a catchy garment label. A burkini does not cover the face, so it should really be called a hijabkini, but that doesn’t resonate like the amalgam of burqa and bikini. So it’s a misnomer, and the repressive, menacing burqa ethos is now attached to harmless full-length cossies (like wet suits?).

Ironically Zanetti’s idea of inclusion has backfired in France, so maybe the swimsuit should be re-branded there as friendly, sun protection wear. What about Cousteaukini, as a nod to the French godfather of scuba diving? Nah, I reckon Koala Kossie is perfect for the French market, with all those cuddly connotations.

In the so-called Western world women had full-length bathing suits early last century. Even in 1946 at Bondi a ‘beach inspector’ remonstrated with the first scandalous bikini wearer to cover up, but now bikinis are apparently the norm.

The French mayors and their boosters should all have a ‘douche froide’! The French habit of investing objects with symbolic meaning and extraordinary power has gone too far this time. Although understandable after the horrors of these last few years, quand même!

(Thanks to Cathy Wilcox for allowing use of her cartoon from SMH 29 Aug))

Cathy Wilcox SMH 2016-08-29

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Fellow pundit Mungo McCallum, the oracle from Billinudgel, has clearly debunked the Australian Christian Lobby’s use of God’s fine words to justify its virulent opposition to gay marriage. I mean ‘marriage equality’.

Unfortunately fine words were not matched by deeds, and Mungo outlines God’s deficiencies in the parenting of his son, and the neglect, even abuse, of the boy’s mother. It’s not a pretty saga, and hardly a role model for Christian naysayers of gay marriage today.

I have to confess that I’m not that fussed about the idea of encouraging more marriages, but I understand that it somehow means a lot to some gay/etc folk. And if civil union or other ersatz marriage substitutes don’t suffice, then by all means let them join the happy matrimonial club. No skin off anybody’s nose. But I do find ‘equality’ a strange label.

And of course we don’t need a $160m national plebiscite to change the laws. Just get on with it in parliament with so-called conscience votes all round, and stop wasting everyone’s time. Particularly as we could put that energy into more pressing matters, like boat-stopping and opening new coal mines.

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(French, present participle of revenir, to return – when used in English curiously it is more dramatic, from the dead, like the recent film or book.)

Ok, you’ve been afraid to ask, why has the strident voice from Kookynie been quelled since this time last year. Rumours that KC was bought out by Murdoch almost came true as we were very willing to sell out for a small consideration, but negotiations fell over when Rupert insisted we go quiet on his Jerry Hall liaison. I wonder what fine qualities he has to keep pulling these babes, huh?

Nah, we’ve been too busy realising the Great Orstralian Dream out here in the back of beyond. With no shortage of deserted blocks to snap up, we decided to DIY a new shack, thus expanding Kookynie’s housing stock by about 25%. So it’s done, home beautiful is extant. We’re here for the long-haul, mate, not speculation, unless of course a property developer offers a motza. Have a gander below and swing by when you’re next heading north from Coolgardie.

So time now for keeping you abreast of the latest wonderings, which brings us inevitably to today’s sacred rendez-vous with history, and the temptation to recycle last year’s Anzac Day diatribe. But I’ll resist it, and simply mention ‘Unnecessary Wars’ by Henry Reynolds, just released, which traces Australia’s ignominious tradition of uncritically joining in faraway imperialist or neo-colonial wars at the behest of our great and trusted allies. I haven’t read it yet, but it’s bound to add more grist to my over-full mill of anti-war resentment and resistance.

So instead of wallowing in the faux sentimentality and over-wrought nationalism of ‘remembrance’, I recommend that we do ourselves and future soldier generations a service, by reading Henry’s book. And think about what was actually achieved in those foreign lands where our boys made the supreme sacrifice. Yeah, that was think, not feel.

Have a trawl through KC’s archives on our most recent war in Afghanistan. Objective conclusions about Australia’s involvement are rarely discussed, and the lack of debate when we commit to war perplexing indeed. Henry may help to elucidate these blind-spots in the national psyche and political DNA.

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We all have visceral instincts about others. Without literally smelling him, my senses and sensibilities signal that Cardinal George Pell, that erstwhile defender of the indefensible in the Catholic Church is a corrupt individual of the lowest (or highest?) order.

He seems thoroughly untrustworthy, and certainly willing to suborn, dare I say pell-mell, a recent witness to the Royal Commission into Child Abuse, who was allegedly abused as a child by a Catholic priest under Pell’s protection.

David Shoebridge, Greens MP in NSW Parliament, is trying again to introduce legislation to allow victims to sue the Church for damages. At present the so-called Ellis Defence protects the Church, which is deemed to be an unincorporated association with its assets held in unrelated trusts.

John Ellis failed in the High Court to overturn this outrageous rort, where the Church effectively does not exist as a legal entity with attendant responsibilities. Which is probably appropriate for an organisation dealing in the occult, but let’s them off the hook for all their gross wrongdoings.

The Church is also exempt from any form of taxation in Australia, which is handy for a wealthy fraternity (brotherhood indeed!) dedicated to serving, oh hallelujah, the poorest and disadvantaged of our abundant society, as did Jesus apparently.

Pell should be brought back from his Rome sinecure to face the Royal Commission, and finally be put under forensic legal scrutiny with serious consequences, and not just brush off any criticism as before. More power to Shoebridge, and may justice be done one day!

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It’s meant to describe a feeling of consumer overload of Anzac themed TV offerings crashing in the ratings. Commercialisation is an understatement in this era of hyper-marketing of our cultural markers. Appropriation of Anzac for supermarkets, burgers, you-name-it, has been extant for years and becoming more flagrant. It can offend devotees of this quasi-religious popular annual outpouring of sentimentality known as Anzac Day.

It’s all been said already and I don’t mind ‘learned nationalistic sentimentality’ as a description of what’s going on in this veritable orgy of commemoration and brainwashing around it. Apparently its themes too have been updated from heroism and mateship to sacrifice and service. It rolls off the tongue nicely.

If you want to discuss the lessons we’ve learnt about not repeating (military) history then you have to explain why we are again sending more troops to Iraq, That’s right: making a total 1,000 to help train the Iraqi army. We did such a good job there last time, and it worked brilliantly in Afghanistan during 14 years of military mission in that benighted country.

As always our troops head off at Uncle Sam’s bidding, without even a parliamentary debate of the merits, strategy and national interest for Australia in doing so. The ongoing vacuum of political discourse about our endless military adventures is shocking. And this latest escalation is even more scandalous under cover of an Anzac Day centenary extravaganza.

Australians really haven’t learnt a bloody thing in the last 100 years or more. Ignorance, conformity and militarism are a fatal (ahem!) trifecta in our national DNA, and it’s grown like a cancer since we first sent NSW troops to fight against the Maoris in Enzed in the 1860s.

Poor fellow my country indeed, to borrow Herbert’s famous book title. My anger has turned to resignation and sorrow at our unrepentant failings.

Another VB, mate?

You mean Villers-Bretonneux?

 

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Oh dear, the motto of Knox Grammar School is ‘Virgile Agitur’, which translates as ‘Doing the Manly Thing’. As the school is under the spotlight of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse those words take on an ominous ambiguity. The school is one of the privileged bastions of male-only education with righteous Christian overtones and bullying, chauvinistic culture which decorate the firmament of Sydney’s upper classes.

The very English model of these schools flourished in our secular sandy soil. In recent years they attached themselves limpet-like to the public purse, as the aspiring nouveaux riches deserted the honourable public school system. To ensure that the fruits of their loins would prosper in those hothouses of networking and ‘values’ which the parents somehow fail to inculcate themselves.

The Royal Commission is investigating sexual abuse of students by teachers during 1970-2012 (oh yeah!) and a culture of denial and cover-up by headmasters and staff worthy of the Catholic Church (theirs is Uniting). The long-serving headmaster Dr Patterson has admitted his connivance in failing to notify police, nor take any disciplinary action and protecting the school’s reputation above all. The hypocritical righteousness of these superior institutions makes my blood simmer!

The nefarious influence of same-sex schools on society has been canvassed before, and the evidence is accumulating. The headmaster himself is charged with handling the genitals of a visiting 16 year old actress performing in a school play in full view of the male student audience. The headmaster of another elite boys school was previously a Knox housemaster and did not follow up on reported sexual abuse going on under his nose. So to speak.

The lukewarm expression of shock and surprise by Peter Fitzsimons, a Knox Old Boy newspaper columnist who knew nothing of the shenanigans going on there is implausible denial. It only goes to show the misplaced loyalties and tribal indoctrination practised at the school, like others of its GPS ilk. ‘School spirit’ can be translated as Mitläufer, in the language of Goethe! And for a classical allusion, the labours of Hercules would be needed to clean out these augean stables of bad school culture, which always close ranks against the critics and outsiders.

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